By Kate Marsden
We’re heading to West Norwood this week to explore the truly beautiful, detailed work of artist Julia McKenzie (who is also making me feel a little better about my messy studio!)…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
My name is Julia McKenzie, I am an artist based in South London, who makes collages, prints and drawings. Increasingly my work is about my immediate, natural environment. I look at animals, birds and insects as well as plant forms in my garden and beyond - wherever I find myself.
What does a typical day involve?
I make a coffee and walk up to the end of my garden where I have my studio. I turn on the radio and start working. I keep office hours in the studio and leave about six. If I am printing, I may go to another studio, or ride my bike about and look for exhibitions and hunt for things to draw.
Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
I draw from observation as much as possible, so the floor is strewn with plants, feathers, bones. I make paper cuts from old maps as well, and so at times, the studio floor is a sea of paper. I am quite messy. If it’s a small scale thing I sit at my desk, if something big, such as a large scale drawing, I work on the wall. If I am not in the studio or teaching, I will visit galleries and favourite places like the British Museum.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?
Though I think social media has been brilliant for the lone artist or designer, it is always had to get your work out there. Pricing your work is always hard and, of course, galleries take commission. Though for an artist, getting your work seen is of paramount importance.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
I would love ultimately to be able to live from the work I sell. At the moment that is not possible, though it pays for itself and I can afford to be ambitious at times with materials and processes. I have lots of ideas for different projects; I would love to achieve a whole range of goals in the next 5 years!
Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out?
My advice for anybody truly creative is to make work you really believe in. Try not to be swayed by trends or things you think might sell. I would still make work whether I sold it or not, but if you truly love what you do and have the expertise, people are naturally drawn to what you do and appreciate it.
Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.
I really love Bainbridge Print Studios as they have great facilities and opportunities to learn new skills - so helpful.
I also love Circus in Brixton Market. Tabitha has a great eye and champions new designers and local talent.
The feast in West Norwood is amazing at supporting the local community, producers and artist/designers. I do a stall in the artisan market once a month.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
It’s such a brilliant ethos. I think it really helps people focus on what’s around them and to seek out the artists and designers in their area. At Christmas and for buying gifts I would always think about supporting fellow artists and designers. It certainly made me think about how important it is to have solidarity with my local creative community and to think before you buy. I completely understand that just buying a card can make a real difference.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
I think any message that lets people know that there are amazing, creative and talented people out there, making and selling beautiful things, is very powerful in an age of mass production and faceless, poor design.
Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
I think I first saw Just a Card on Instagram. I LOVE Instagram, it is so interesting and, as a visual person, it has led me to discover a whole wealth of new people and exciting new ideas, it has been a great platform for me. I am seriously addicted.